Haverhill native Robert P. Pistone formally became the city’s new police chief during a ceremony this morning in which he promised to lead the “new era of policing.”
Ushered in with the sound of bagpipes, performed by the Lawrence-based Clan MacPherson Pipes and Drums with Haverhill Police Officer William O’Connell, and a Haverhill Police Honor Guard, Pistone told a crowded audience in Haverhill City Hall he is proud of his department’s embrace of modern practices, but he said, “There’s always room for improvements. Now is not the time to rest on our laurels.”
“Going forward, we will be including members who represent our diverse communities at monthly panel discussions, which will address issues such as recruiting and hiring practices, crime statistics, use of force statistics and customer service satisfaction survey reports. We will, with open minds, listen to grievances from members of the community who feel they weren’t treated fairly or professionally,” he declared.
The new chief directed most of his remarks to the community. He noted the department’s open communications with neighborhood groups, city departments, elected officials, the business community, students involved with the Violence Intervention Prevention team, Leaving the Streets Ministry, Power of Self-Education, UTEC, Latino Coalition, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Haverhill, YMCA, YWCA, churches, diversity task force and others.
“As police officers, we chose to be public servants. We swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, to protect the lives and properties of all of our citizens to the best of our abilities…”
Pistone noted the Haverhill Police Department will soon be one of only three in the state with national accreditation. Beyond that, it will lead with compassion and safety with its new behavioral response unit.
He also took time to speak directly to the women and men of the department.
“I want you to know that as your police chief, I will not let you down. You will be supported; your health and wellness will be prioritized. The stigma of seeking help will be removed. You each matter to me as individuals and keeping you whole as human beings and sending you home healthy to your families is a priority,” he promised.
Pistone called Haverhill a big city that has “big city problems at times,” but on the whole “as a lifelong resident, I’ve always found Haverhill to be unique and it has a small-town feel.” The new chief received a standing ovation.
Mayor James J. Fiorentini praised Pistone for tackling, what he called, the city’s “number one crime problem:” gangs. He said the new chief reached out across the community and launched a number of initiatives to address the problem. The mayor, who also thanked retired Chief Alan R. DeNaro and interim Police Chief Anthony L. Haugh, who retired as deputy chief earlier this year, said he knew Pistone has the support of the rank and file.
“He’s been elected twice by his own members, his own men, to lead the two different unions in the police department. They have confidence in you and so do I,” he said.
Riverside Church Pastor Mark A. Rivera served as master of ceremonies, presiding over the singing of the National Anthem by Leslie Ellard; invocation by department chaplain, Father John DeLaney of Sacred Hearts Parish; City Clerk Linda L. Koutoulas’ administration of the oath of office; and addresses by Fiorentini and Pistone. Besides citizens and state and local leaders, among those attending were Essex County Sheriff Kevin F. Coppinger and several classmates of Pistone from the FBI National Academy.